June 3 started out like any normal Wednesday in the summer. I clocked in around 7:45 a.m. and went through some of the photos I took the day before to get ready for publication Friday.
Just after lunch, I met up with Shelley at the Grand Central Plaza to get some art for her story about the Quilts of Valor Foundation. We rode the elevator to an open area where Korean War veteran Albert “Jack” Fiedler was sitting with family and friends. Fiedler was presented with a quilt made by his sister in North Dakota. Tears ran down his face as Jill Corr unwrapped his quilt. It got real fuzzy in my viewfinder for a minute as I fought back tears.
Then it was back to my house to load the photos and get them ready to go on the website. I had just finished the last photo when I heard a child went missing while swimming. I gave my editor a call to ask if she wanted me to head out there to check it out. She did, and she wanted Maria to come along to see if we could put a story together.
Maria picked me up and we headed down Highway 13. We thought we were going to the mouth of the Amnicon River, so we turned off onto Amnicon River Road and followed it until it stops. We both found it odd that we weren’t seeing any rescue vehicles or even signs that anyone had been on the road - turns out we were at the mouth of the wrong river, so we drove back out to Highway 13 and got to the mouth of the Middle River.
Squad cars lined part of the gravel road that led down to the beach. A number of volunteer firefighters from Amnicon, Lakeside and Maple were walking through the water searching.
It was so quiet. A group of three people were crying on the beach. Photographer mode kicked in and I tried to tell the story of what was going on, even if I wasn’t totally sure what was actually going on. A familiar sheriff’s deputy came up to talk with Maria and me and filled us in a little bit.
The child's parents moved up near us. I heard the mother talk about how two kids were running from the river to Lake Superior in knee deep water and they both vanished. She grabbed one out. The boy they were searching for was 6. My son is 6. Photographer mode shut off, dad turned mode on.
My son likes to swim, this easily could have been him. No one did anything wrong. The tears didn’t break out with Jack Fiedler earlier, but I could have used his quilt to wipe all the tears running down my cheeks. I made sure I was far away from everyone. I felt sick to my stomach.
Part of me was hoping for some sort of miracle, but that didn’t happen. I walked down by a beach umbrella and cooler where mere hours ago people were doing regular summer things.
Photographer mode turned back on, and it helped bury the pain. It always does.
Unfortunately I don’t get to pick if the story I’m covering is a good story or a bad story. Hopefully I get more good ones than bad, because this one was really bad. We stayed on the scene for a few hours as the search continued.
After I got home, I heard they found the boy’s body. No miracle. I prepared some photographs as I thought about my own son and cried. It was a tough one.
I couldn’t sit home by myself. The boys were at their mom’s house, so I decided to go clear my mind at Wisconsin Point. Just as I changed into some gym shorts, I get a text from a friend asking me what was happening on Wisconsin Point. I wasn’t sure, but quickly found out there was a fire nearby. I grabbed my camera bag, got in my truck and hustled over.
The smoke was so thick on parts of Moccasin Mike Road I could barely see the lights on fire trucks as I drove. Turns out part of the dump was on fire. I arrived on the scene at about 7:30 p.m. Quite a few cars lined the road trying to get a decent view of the fire. I parked my truck and started to walk past all of the cars. One couple said they saw the smoke from Canal Park and decided to follow it.
I started talking to some folks who pulled their truck up on a little hill and they let me take a few shots from the back of their truck bed.
Then I weaved my way through some trees to get a better vantage point. Multiple groups of people came through as the fire burned brighter and moved closer to the road inside the dump. As it got darker I got a few pretty nice shots.
Most of all, I was happy to not be thinking about what I was covering just a few hours earlier. I took my last shot at about 9 p.m. and ran back home to send off a couple photos to the News Tribune.
I clocked out around 10:30 p.m. It was a roller coaster day telling stories from our area, good and bad.